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A Going Concern
Disturbing Trend and Potential risks for healthcare workers
We have observed some disturbing events in the healthcare workplaces recently. We’ll use two examples to provide the background. At one institution, a patient was admitted into the ER, the patient had signed all consent for treatment waivers. A nurse drew blood from the patient. As she turned around to place the vials into the storage container, the patient kicked the nurse in the back of the head and ribs, claiming she had hurt him in the drawing of the blood. The police were called and the patient claimed he was assaulted and demanded the nurse be arrested. The police agreed with the patient and tried to arrest the nurse. Never mind that the only individual with any damage was the head and rib trauma on the nurse.
Second example, an institution had a patient in ER that was self-admitted, obviously drunk and admitted to have been drinking. Before the patient had any screening exam and tests performed he wished to leave and the nurse said you can’t leave yet, he called security and requested assistance in keeping the patient in the ER. Security as per their practice called the local PD to assist. The PD responded and threatened to arrest the security officer for kidnapping since he was preventing the patient from leaving. The patient had not broken any laws according to the officer, notwithstanding the patient drove to the hospital, self-admitted he had been drinking and his behavior and motor skills clearly indicated he was under the influence.
These two distinct examples lead to some serious questions and concerns about where we are heading in our society. When a healthcare worker can be assaulted and injured in the workplace for performing the procedures already consented to by a patient and nothing comes of it except the worker being arrested for assault, we have reached a point of lunacy that defies reasonable thought. Take provide an analogous situation. If a policeman were to over-tighten the cuffs on a suspect, and the suspect kicked the policeman in the head because the officer had hurt him with the cuffs, would the other policemen in the area threaten to arrest the officer and charge him with assault? No, the suspect would be charged with assaulting the officer during the arrest. Nurses are being told that getting hit, kicked, spit upon, etc. is just part of the job and they should get used to it. We are flabbergasted at the implications and belief that this is OK. Since when does a healthcare worker who is obliged to treat also have to accept assault as part of their duties? In no other situation would anyone think this is appropriate.
In the second example, if the situation took place in a bar, the owner of the facility would be charged for allowing the obviously drunk patron to leave in that state. The lawyers for any injured party would argue that if a bar owner can tell if someone is too drunk to leave, trained healthcare workers surely must be held to the same standard and the courts would probably agree with them.
What is disturbing is what has happened in our society where rational thought has been discarded. How can anyone believe a healthcare worker should have to take the bad behavior of the patients and the healthcare institution is responsible instead of the person who has behavioral issues? How can we not recognize that preventing a potential threatening situation is not the same as kidnapping? These things are not the same and not all things are relative. Some things are right and some things are wrong, when we lose that basic moral understanding we have lost our civilization. Have we really reached the place where we must propose a law that if you assault a healthcare worker, you will be charged with a felony?
Do we need to define that restraining an intoxicated or drug influenced person until they are not a danger to society is not kidnapping?
What we fear is that rather than addressing the behaviors and ownership of the behaviors within our society, we are going to see laws passed for each type of instance, a situation that in itself will become untenable. It is also doomed to be a lagging process, where people will suffer and the perpetrators will be without punishment until our legal system can catch up. The society that considers all behaviors valid, without recognizing that some are destructive and against the public good will not survive. History has already demonstrated that fact.
We have already seen in cybercrime cases, that the victim is blamed for the breach, not the criminals who attacked the business. We have turned the state of things upside-down. We are seeing the trend now in healthcare and retail industries where the employee is blamed rather than the criminal causing the harm. The logical conclusion must be that we’ll have an even greater shortage of workers when they are not protected on the job – and NO, passing another law will not improve the situation, addressing the presumption that all behaviors are valid and acceptable and holding the person misbehaving responsible is!
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